With 11-games remaining on the regular season schedule, the Nationals postseason picture is solely focused on a Wild Card spot. The game is set for Tuesday, October 1st and televised on TBS. The Washington Nationals are now at an 83-68 record. This is what some fans forget — the Nationals control their own destiny because they are in the first spot for the Wild Card. Sure, you have to win. The Nationals have to take the approach of, “You win and you’re in” and it is just that simple. Keep winning, and everything will take care of itself. The Nationals lost today, but so did the Brewers and Cubs, and that gives the Nationals a 1½ game lead in the Wild Card race.
The Los Angeles Dodgers and the Atlanta Braves have already clinched spots in the postseason. The NL Central lead by the Cardinals has shrunk to 3.0 games over the Cubs and they have seven head-to-head games remaining with a 4-game series that begins today, and then they have a 3-game series in the final weekend. In those seven games, one of the teams is guaranteed to lose at least four games in the series.
The Nats still have to face the Cleveland Indians of the AL Central in interleague plus five games against the Phillies in a four day series (includes a doubleheader), and this weekend the Nationals have a three-game series in Miami against the Marlins. The Nationals are currently in Miami and have a day-off today.
Here are the remaining teams the Nationals face in the final 11 games of this regular season with the number of games played next to the team name:
- Marlins 3
- Phillies 5
- Indians 3
What seems reasonable in a three or five game series? Fangraphs computers today believe the Nationals have a 93.6% chance of making the postseason, and 0.0% to win the division, and 4.7% to win the World Series, and they project the Nats to still win 89.8 games by going 6.8-4.2 the rest of the way. Okay, they are computer hedging as there are no fractional numbers. Strength of schedule is if course considered using a weighted opponent winning percentage (WWP), and that is a reason why the Milwaukee Brewers have the third highest percentage chance (48.1%) right now to take a Wild Card spot as they have the easiest WWP of the legitimate contenders.
The Nationals have to get their team healthy, Matt Adams is dealing with a sprain of the AC joint in his shoulder and Kurt Suzuki has elbow inflammation. This is a catcher who turns 36 years old in less than a month. Roenis Elias might not make it back before the season ends as he is shutdown with a re-injury of his hamstring. The other issues are dealing with fatigue. Yan Gomes is catching four of the starters, and Trea Turner, Anthony Rendon, Juan Soto, Victor Robles, and Adam Eaton will be starting every game until the team clinches the Wild Card, and they could start every game as the Nationals are focused on home field advantage for the Wild Card, and Mike Rizzo said today that Howie Kendrick will be playing more.
“It’s September, you got to win every day,” Max Scherzer said. “That’s just how it is. You’ve got to win every day.”
Winning is the key, and to get to 90-wins here is what each team needs to do:
- Washington Nationals: 7-4
- Chicago Cubs: 8-2
- Milwaukee Brewers: 8-2
- New York Mets: 10-0 would get them to 89-73 as their best possible record
- Philadelphia Phillies: 11-0 would get them to 89-73 as their best possible record
Yesterday, general manager Mike Rizzo discussed his rotation going forward. This is how the rotation could look for the remainder of the regular season:
- Friday in Miami: Anibal Sanchez
- Saturday in Miami: Stephen Strasburg
- Sunday in Miami: Austin Voth
- Monday vs. Philadelphia: Patrick Corbin
- Tuesday vs. Philadelphia (Game 1): Max Scherzer
- Tuesday vs. Philadelphia (Game 2): TBD
- Wednesday vs. Philadelphia: Anibal Sanchez
- Thursday vs. Philadelphia: Stephen Strasburg
- Friday vs. Cleveland: Austin Voth
- Saturday vs. Cleveland: Patrick Corbin
- Sunday vs. Cleveland: Max Scherzer
That projected rotation is subject to being changed, and you have to believe the Nationals hope they can clinch a Wild Card spot by Friday to allow them to skip Corbin and Scherzer. If the Nats cannot skip them, Strasburg would line up to start the Wild Card game on Tuesday, October 1st.
“We have our horses lined up to pitch down the stretch depending on what the race looks like will determine who pitches game 162 then if we are fortunate enough who will pitch the Wild Card game,” Rizzo said. “If we are further fortunate, we will see who pitches the next series after that. We have it all planned out. We got a good strategy in the mind. Until then we will take it one game at a time. … I would assume [Max Scherzer for the Wild Card]. I think that is the way we have it set-up, but things could change, and who knows what comes on down the road. Max and Stras are our two guys. We are fortunate that we have three number one pitchers on this staff. Any of the three we feel confident running out there in an elimination game.”